Interview: The Kitchen Ninja (Hanna Younging)

I’m excited today to have another Buffalo Foodie who has experience working in a kitchen.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed our previous 69 Buffalo Foodies but Hanna (The Kitchen Ninja) brings a unique perspective of food that only a couple of other foodies have given us so far.  Since I read her post last month about leaving her last job, I’ve been reading through her archives.  Whether it’s a funny post about new guys or an epic story about working a shift at the legendary Alinea they are all great reads, my only critique of her blog is that I wish there was more.  She’s lived all around the world (Germany, Hawaii) but currently lives and works in Buffalo.

I reached out to Hanna via twitter and sent her our typical questions about her favorite places to eat and drink in Buffalo.  I have so many questions for Hanna about the profession and her experiences but those will be saved for a future podcast appearance.  In the mean time enjoy her answers below….

Right now, where are some of your favorite places to eat in Buffalo?

TKN: Bistro Europa is a restaurant that I always leave feeling full and happy. They utilize exciting seasonal ingredients, and I love how local food plays such an important role on their menu.  The potato pancake is so simple and satisfying. Every time I order the pork chop, in itʼs different manifestations, Iʼm never disappointed, and am always amazed at the size of the portion. The charcuterie plate is always generously laden, I usually order it with Ellenʼs bread basket- her brioche is a work of art.

I love Pho 99.  I always get a bowl of variety pho (I love hunting around for the tripe), and this thing that I call “egg with pork.” I have no clue what itʼs really called, but on the menu, itʼs basically a picture of a large slice of pork, some rice, and a runny egg. I enjoy the food, the service, and the offbeat atmosphere, all remind me of Hawaii.

Kuniʼs is wonderful.  The food is simple, and understated. His rice is always perfect. The Hamachi Kama is a gem. The salty skin is grilled until crispy, the flesh is always tender. The Tonkatsu is great winter comfort food. Pork, pounded out thin, covered in bread crumbs then fried. Served with spicy sweet Tonkatsu sauce. I like to order mine with a side of sushi rice.

When you get out of work or hang out with friends, where do you like to grab a drink?

TKN: I like Fahretyʼs. I live practically across the street, so its easy and friendly. I love Veraʼs fun cocktails.  I love that they take the time to squeeze their fruit juices fresh every day, and their dedication to detail makes their drinks really unique.

If you had someone visiting from out of town, where would you take them?

TKN: When my family visits I take them to Europa. Itʼs intimate and there is always something exciting to try; there arenʼt restaurants with personality like that in Hawaii. I also like to take my mom shopping on Elmwood. Itʼs the most charming street in the city, and is bustling and happy.

What are some food memories you have from your childhood?

TKN: We lived in Germany when I was growing up, so I have exotic memories from traveling, and home.  I have crazy memories of eating baby octopus in Spain, really good pasta in Italy, gelato (hazelnut was my favorite flavor), Egyptian street food, and of course food from hundreds of German restaurants. We lived right next door to this great German bakery, so I was really fat as a kid from eating custard filled sweets every morning, nutella filled croissants, and hearty thick crusted bread.  The Germanʼs had this weird ketchup that had curry seasoning in it, and I would put that on everything. Milk came in glass bottles; it was thick like heavy cream, and when unopened, was good for years.  Headcheese’s and charcuterie were really normal. Here itʼs a ʻtrendʼ or something exciting, but when I was growing up, it was just something German people had in their fridge.  There wasnʼt a supermarket in our village, so we still had a baker, a butcher, a dairy, and a bee keeper.  It was a great place to grow up.

What would you like to see in Buffalo’s restaurant scene?

TKN: I wish there were more bakeries in Buffalo. Not the cupcake variety, but bakeries that made hearty bread, rolls, and croissants. Bread that you can’t roll up into a little ball in your hand. Bread with a real crust to it, real color and flavor.

Another dim sum place would be awesome too. Preferably in Allentown. So when people were drunk, and stumbling out of the bars they could get some late night dumplings. They had great dim sum houses in China that were only open late at night. I think that’s a fun idea for Buffalo. Huge carts of Dim Sum steamer baskets weaving through tables. Maybe just even a dim sum food cart or truck! You could go really traditional, or even have fun and make ʻBuffaloʼ influenced dumplings 🙂 The possibilities are endless!

Yakiniku is also a really common thing in Hawaii that Buffalo would love. Itʼs a restaurant were all the tables have little grills in the middle. You order meats and veggies off the menu, and grill them yourself. Itʼs really interactive and fun. I think the city would have a heart attack over the table grills, but I think people would love the concept.


We’d like to thank Hanna for taking time out of her busy schedule of spending the holidays back home in Hawaii (not fair) to answer our questions so quickly.  If you haven’t read any of Hanna’s posts, I suggest you sit back for a while and scroll through her archives.  This isn’t her first appearance on a Buffalo food blog, check out Buffalo Chow’s post from March where Hanna gives her thoughts and opinions about restaurant reviews. We are looking forward to sitting down in the Buffalo Eats studio in the near future and hope she finds her next kitchen soon, mainly because I want some new blog posts.

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